Loral Reserves Falcon 9 Launch for TBD Satellite

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WASHINGTON — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) said March 15 that it has signed an agreement with Space Systems/Loral to launch one of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based satellite builder’s 1300 model spacecraft into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) aboard a Falcon 9 rocket for an unspecified customer as early as 2012.

Space Systems/Loral President John Celli said March 16 that the contract with SpaceX is not for any satellite Loral is currently building, but could be part of a package for a future Loral customer once the Falcon 9 performance is proved.

“We want to support the Falcon 9 entry into the market, and this was a way for us to purchase, at a relatively low cost, a reservation on a launch once the vehicle increases its capability to carry one of our satellites,” Celli said in an interview. “Our current satellites weigh about 5,000 kilograms.”

SpaceX said the Falcon 9 vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., is able to carry a satellite weighing “more than” 4,500 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, the destination of most telecommunications satellites.

SpaceX completed a 3.5-second Falcon 9 static fire March 13 in preparation for conducting the rocket’s maiden launch in the weeks ahead. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company has 24 Falcon 9 flights on its launch manifest through 2015.